Late game heroics were the highlight of Wednesday night’s 2017 US Open Cup First Round matchup between FC Tucson and the Colorado Rush.
FC Tucson defeated Colorado 3-1 at Kino North Stadium after scoring the go-ahead goal in the 89th minute and adding another goal in stoppage time in what was a thrilling final 10 minutes of play.
Forward Wedner Delmonte received a clearance near midfield in the 89th minute and used a quick dribble move to get by the lone Colorado defender in his path and ignite the FC Tucson counter attack.
Delmonte spotted midfielder Moshe Perez on the left wing and his pass put Perez in a one-on-one situation with Colorado Rush goalkeeper Shailer Thomas. Perez took a few dribbles before sliding in a curled shot into the bottom right of the net past the outstretched arms of Thomas to give the home team a 2-1 lead heading into stoppage time.
“I was like ‘I’ve got to make that run with Delmonte’ and I knew he was going to play it,” Perez said. “It was two minutes from the end and I had to finish it… and I’m just glad we won.”
Referees signaled six minutes of stoppage time, giving Colorado plenty of time to mount an attack for the equalizing goal.
However, it didn’t play out exactly as the Rush would’ve liked it.
Thomas was called forward to act as an extra attacker during back-to-back corners about four minutes into extra time, leaving an empty net for FC Tucson.
A quick clearance off the second of the two corners left the Rush exposed, as FC Tucson midfielder Afonso Pinheiro made his way up the left flank unhindered and slotted in the empty net goal to give the team a commanding 3-1 lead.
Despite an action-packed ending, the majority of Wednesday’s game saw both teams struggle to maintain possession and flounder when a scoring opportunity opened up.
FC Tucson opened up scoring with a headed goal from defender Gio Vasquez in the third minute of play off a corner kick in the left corner from midfielder Tate Schmitt.
Vasquez received the curled corner at the back post and drove the header across goal to the near post for the opening goal, fooling Thomas in the process.
Colorado would answer back just four minutes later when forward Daniel Wooliscroft found himself in a golden situation in front of goal.
The FC Tucson backline failed to clear a shot from a Colorado attacker and Wooliscroft curled the equalizer into the bottom right pocket of the net on the volley past the outstretched arms of FC Tucson goalkeeper Lucas Valillo.
While FC Tucson came away with the win and advanced to the second round of USOC play, it did not come without controversy.
First year FC Tucson coach Jon Pearlman and one of his assistants were ejected in the 52nd minute after arguing with fourth official Michael Chaison. Pearlman was upset after Delmonte was subjected to a particularly physical foul from Colorado defender Brad Gorham moments before.
Assistant coach Jose Miranda took over coaching duties for the rest of the game and joked after the game about having the highest winning percentage in team history.
“I will always have that streak as long as they don’t let me do it again and as long as Jon (Pearlman) can control himself as we go through the season.” Miranda said.